Someone Is Trying to Blackmail Me, What Can I Do?

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Blackmail is a term often thrown around somewhat loosely. Often it is used to mean that someone is making you do something you would prefer not to. That is not technically the definition of blackmail. True blackmail is a serious crime. It can have devastating financial and social consequences, subjecting the victim to intense psychological trauma. That is why it is important to know that if blackmail is happening now, or has happened in the past, there are things you can do about it.

What is Blackmail?

According to West's Encyclopedia of American Law, (2d Edition, 2008), blackmail is:

“[t]he crime involving a threat for purposes of compelling a person to do an act against his or her will, or for purposes of taking the person's money or property.


In blackmail the threat might consist of physical injury to the threatened person or to someone loved by that person, or injury to a person's reputation. In some cases the victim is told that an illegal act he or she had previously committed will be exposed if the victim fails to comply with the demand.

Although blackmail is generally synonymous with Extortion, some states distinguish the offenses by requiring that the former be in writing.

Blackmail is punishable by a fine, imprisonment, or both.”

So, simply put, blackmail is a threat to harm someone (physically or emotionally) if they do not do something the blackmailer wants. In some states, blackmail must be in writing, and if it is not, it is called “extortion.”

How to Deal With Blackmail or Extortion

The first thing to remember is never to take matters into your own hands. Deciding to resort to threats of your own, a physical altercation, or even murder will more than likely result in your own incarceration and having the blackmailer carry out his or her threat. Similarly, simply complying with the demands can often lead to further demands or even having the blackmailer carry out the coercive threat simply out of spite once you have complied.

Finding and punishing wrong doers is what the police are for. Call them first. Blackmail and extortion are crimes, and it is their obligation to enforce the law.

In some cases, the threatened harm is not as bad in real life as it may seem in your own mind. Talk to someone you trust to get an outside opinion. This may be an attorney, who is bound by attorney-client privilege not to reveal your secrets, or a religious leader, teacher, or spouse. See if they can add perspective that might make you feel better about not complying with the blackmailer's demands and dealing with the possible fallout.

Follow the directions of law enforcement, even if those directions seem a bad idea. They may require you to experience another round of blackmail at your tormentor's hands in order to collect evidence sufficient to convict. Alternatively, they may instruct you to refuse the blackmailer or take other actions in order to draw the person out. Whatever the suggestion, follow it. The police are trained professionals who know how to handle these situations and what sorts of evidence will be required to make sure your blackmailer is never able to put you, or anyone else, through the same torture.

Of course, the best option for guidance in dealing with these difficult legal situations is always to contact your attorney. An attorney can not only help you gain perspective while protecting your confidences, as described above, but he or she can also help guide you through the appropriate process of seeking assistance with your problem. Often, an attorney may be able to suggest solutions which would not have otherwise occurred to you.

To find an attorney in your area, visit and use the search feature. You will be able to find attorneys in your area specializing in a wide array of legal practice areas.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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